The judge in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin says he won’t move the case to another venue or delay the proceedings. Chauvin’s defense attorney had sought to change the trial’s location, arguing that a jury pool would be unduly influenced by recent news of Minneapolis’ settlement with George Floyd’s family.
“I do not think that that would give the defendant any kind of a fair trial beyond what we are doing here today,” Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill said. “I don’t think there’s any place in the state of Minnesota that has not been subjected to extreme amounts of publicity on this case.”
Cahill also denied a defense motion to delay the proceedings, saying that Chauvin’s trial will surely attract media attention no matter when it takes place. The case is being watched closely, having sparked a national debate on racial injustice and police brutality. Chauvin is white; Floyd was Black.
The judge acknowledged that he was “a little shocked” when two jurors who had been seated for the trial said of the news of the $27 million civil settlement “that it did move them off being fair and impartial.”
“I was surprised that it had such an effect,” Cahill said.
The judge brought seated jurors back to the courthouse earlier this week, to ask if they had seen news reports about the settlement. One juror who said he had seen a headline about it admitted that the payout shifted his views.
“I would say that dollar amount was shocking to me and that the city of Minneapolis felt something was wrong,” he said, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
The number of seated jurors went down to seven as a result of those two jurors being struck from the case.
As of late Friday morning, a total of 13 jurors have now been selected, with a slot for one more remaining. The trial will have 14 jurors, including two serving as alternates.
Earlier in Friday’s session, Cahill responded to a separate request from Chauvin’s defense team, which wanted to include evidence and details from an earlier police stop of Floyd. The judge ruled that only some of those materials would be allowed in the trial.
Cahill noted similarities between Floyd’s interaction with police on May 25, 2020, and the earlier police stop on May 6, 2019. In both instances, the judge said, there were signs that Floyd had ingested drugs after being approached by police officers. In the two cases, Cahill said, Floyd’s physical behavior is “remarkably similar.”
“May 6 is relevant,” Cahill said. “There is a modus operandi to conceal drugs in part by ingesting them, but also doing so in a very stressful circumstance – that is, being pulled out of a car at gunpoint and handcuffed.”
But the judge also said Floyd’s “emotional behavior” from that earlier encounter was not admissible. And he restricted how much of a police video recording from the 2019 arrest could be used in court. Not allowed, for instance, are a taped conversation between Floyd and a paramedic on May 6, 2019, or a portion of video in which police officers said they were on a narcotics investigation and suspected Floyd was dealing drugs.
“Not relevant. Not admissible,” Cahill said.
The only recordings from the 2019 incident that are relevant to the current case, he added, are segments that could be linked to the cause of Floyd’s death and his medical condition.